Thursday, September 07, 2006

We've Moved!

The Silent Holocron has moved to WordPress! There I can offer you a much improved blog, complete with categories and the like. Don't worry, all of my posts on Blogger transferred beautifully. And it only took about 10 to 15 minutes to transfer 251 posts! All I had to do was back up my Blogger template and I was good to go. The new address is Please update your bookmarks and blogrolls, if you're one of the four or five people who have done so! Now, if only we can get Timmy Brister to follow suit and categorize. *wink wink nudge nudge*

Blog Update

Just a note: my blog may be moving to WordPress in the near future. I have been playing around with different blog hosts and WordPress is thus far my favorite. You can categorize your posts, personalize your blog easily, manage comments without having to deal with 50 different screens, and lots of other really nice stuff. It even allows you to import your posts from Blogger! This may be the solution many of us have been looking for, as Blogger seems to have been very unreliable as of late. Slow, muddy connections, troubles with Blogger Beta, plodding blog administration, and so on. I already have the blog set up; it merely remains for me to decide if moving to WordPress is the way I want to go. If so, then I must merely import my posts to WordPress and categorize. Then I can really get started making things look like home again. And just like Blogger, WordPress is free. Check it out if you're looking for blog solutions.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Musings on Frank Page's Chapel Message and An $1800 Book

UPDATE: Timmy Brister has posted on Dr. Page's message here. He also captured for all eternity Dr. Page signing my copy of Trouble With The TULIP! But if anything, he's captured for all eternity that I need to get back in shape. ;-p Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page spoke at Southern Seminary's Tuesday chapel. I made a point of getting up early to go hear him. It was well worth setting the alarm. President Page preached a very convicting sermon entitled "Changing That Which We Can Change" from Philippians 1:12-20. I say it was convicting because I wish I'd heard that sermon about 4 years ago, shortly before beginning my struggles with burnout. It is also convicting in light of the current political silliness in the SBC, as well as the theological silliness going around about Calvinism. What follows are my impressions from his message. I am sure there are others who can offer something more indepth and of more substance, and I encourage you to read theirs as well, should they post. But here are my gleanings. When our circumstances in life appear difficult, can we change them? When we face difficult circumstances, more likely than not we cannot change them, precisely because they have been brought upon us by the Lord. Page drew from Paul's account in this passage three things. What we can change, and ought to change, is our mindset, our motivation, and our methodology.


Our mindset, Page said, must be one that sees all circumstances as an opportunity to glorify God. Instead of taking mindsets of despair, jealousy, etc., Paul was encouraged that he had the opportunity to glorify God in the Roman jail in which he was held. His attitude, Page said, was one that said "I will proclaim the Gospel no matter my circumstances." We ought have the same mindset as Paul--no matter my situation, I will proclaim the Gospel.


Our motives must constantly be checked, Page stressed. Why are we doing what we are doing? Are we doing it to feel good about ourselves? Are we doing it to push an agenda? Are we doing it because we are aligned with a faction? All these motives are sinful and unbiblical. Page here made a proclamation that brought several "amens:" We are all on the same team. Southern Baptists have got to understand this. Let me write that out with the proper emphasis he gave, in pulpit pounding: "We are all (pound) on (pound) the same (pound) team (pound). Southern Baptists have GOT (POUND) to understand this!" Page went on to say that it is not about our feelings, factions, or agendas, because we are all on the same team. Therefore our motivation must be for His kingdom and for His glory. Paul didn't care about the "whys" and "wherefores" of his opponents. The only thing Paul cared about was that they were preaching the Gospel, though their motives were not pure. We must have the same motivation as Paul, one that simply seeks to see God and His kingdom lifted up through the proclamation of the Gospel.


I think this point brought the greatest agreement among the audience. Does what we do in our ministry bring shame and reproach upon the Gospel? If it does we must not do it. We must continually ask ourselves, "Is what we are doing pure and right, and does it bring glory to God?" If it is not and does not, we must get rid of it. The entire point is that we must have first and foremost the glory of God as our goal. Page closed his message with a good summary: "Though our circumstances in life may never change, we can change the way we face them by checking our mindset, motivation, and methodology." Dr. Mohler, after a few remarks, most of which I was unable to follow, led the student in a time of silent prayer which I can only assume was meant for us to reflect and meditate on Page's message to us. I prayed that the Lord would forgive me for the times in which I had not kept His glory as the main thing. I prayed that He would ever lead me to seek His glory in all things, that He would keep me on the path that He has prepared for me.

Trouble With The TULIP

Afterwards, I found Guillaume McDowell and walked out with him. For those of you wondering if he's been thrown in jail for the illegal possession of the bottle of Welch's Grape Juice I gave him, you may rest easy. Blogger has been acting up, as he attempted to switch to Blogger Beta, and it seems the folks at Blogger have royally screwed up his blog access. But anyway, I walked out with him, and mentioned that I was going to get Dr. Page to sign my copy of Trouble With The Tulip. He was tickled to death and so was I! As I reached the end of the greeting line, I thanked Dr. Page for a convicting message and made sure he knew that our church was praying for him. Then he graciously consented to sign my copy of TWTT! That's right, I got a signed copy now! Just a little while ago, I went to enter TWTT into my catalog, and discovered something interesting. still lists TWTT as "out-of-print," but they only have one used copy. That in and of itself is nothing, but it was listed as $1,842.54! A used copy! That is one expensive book! I got a real steal at $14.50 from Lifeway.

Other Stuff

Well, that about wraps up my day. Tricia and I finally bought a bookshelf, and the bulk of my books are now put away, praise the Lord. We also took my desktop computer in for diagnostics and an estimate on the repairs. It mysteriously went kerfuffle back in March or April, maybe even as far back as February, and I've delayed getting it fixed due to finances and that little thing I had to do called getting married. Please pray that I don't lose anything, because I have a year and a half's worth of sermons on it as well as two years of schoolwork and other ministry work that I'd like to save.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Grace Through Obedient Faith: Romans 1:5-7

The Silent Holocron dedicates Monday space to the sermon that will be preached the following Sunday.  Stephen will flesh out each of his sermon points in these posts.  To read any Greek or Hebrew fonts that may be present, download SIL Greek or SIL Hebrew as needed from the link in the sidebar.  Any feedback you can give on what is posted would be greatly appreciated.

Romans 1:5-7

diH oÆ l€bomen c€rin ka± ‡postolÑn e¸v ÃpakoÑn p°stewv n p‚sin to²v žqnesin Ãpšr to ìnçmatov aÇto n oµv ste ka± Ãme²v kljto± HIjso Cristo p‚sin to²v oÊsin n hRðmÛ ‡gapjto²v qeo kljto²v ƒg°oiv c€riv Ãm²n ka± e¸rÐnj ‡pè qeo patrèv Ómòn ka± kur°ou HIjso CristoÂ

di ou elabomen charin kai apostoljn eis hupakojn pistews en pasin tois ethnesin huper tou onomatos autou en hois este kai humeis kljtoi Iesou Christou pasin tois ousin en Rwmj agapjtois theou kljtois hagiois charis humin kain eirjnj apo theou patros hjmwn kai kuriou Ijsou Christou

Through whom we received grace and apostleship in obedience of faith in all the nations for the sake of the name of him in whom you are (and you are called ones of Jesus Christ), to all the beloved, called, holy ones of God in Rome; grace to you and peace from God the father of us and our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Obedience of Faith

Having named the Son of God in verse 4, Paul then tells us something interesting.  It is through Jesus, the Son of God, that we receive grace.  Not only that, but it is through Jesus, the Son of God, that we receive our calling, the job which God has planned for us from before the foundation of the world.  But Paul, echoing what he will write later in Romans, tells us the way in which we receive the grace that Jesus brings us – the obedience of faith.

What is this “obedience of faith?”  We must remember first what faith is.  Faith is belief and trust in something we know.  Faith is not faith if it lacks any of these three components.  We must know about the object we are to have faith in.  We must believe in the object; that is, we must believe to be true what we know about the object.  We must also trust the object of faith.

What this means is that faith is not a feeling.  Faith is not an emotion that grows bigger and smaller.  Faith is an action.  A classic illustration of faith is given in a chair.  I know the chair is designed to hold my weight if I sit on it.  I believe the chair will hold my weight if I sit on it.  But until I trust the chair by actually sitting on it, I do not have faith that the chair will hold my weight.  Faith must be acted upon, or it is not faith.

This is what is meant by the term “obedience of faith;” that trusting action that is the mark of true faith.  And that trusting action is resting on Jesus Christ, the Son of God revealed by the Gospel.  We could also call this “obedient faith.”

The Result of Obedient Faith

What is the result of obedient faith?  Paul says that we receive the grace of God dispensed through Jesus Christ.  We receive God’s unmerited favor simply by trusting in His Son.  Paul will write in Ephesians 2:8 “By grace you have been saved through faith.”  Faith is the entryway to God’s grace; it is the “narrow gate” of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 7:13-14.  The first and most important result of obedient faith is that we are saved.

Second, Paul says that he received apostleship.  He received the job by which he identifies himself in verse 1.  Each of us receives our task as Christians when we place our trust in Christ.

When I first trusted Christ, I was immediately called to ministry by the Holy Spirit.  Oh, how I resisted it!  I “knew” I did not want to be a preacher.  But God had decreed how I would serve Him long before I was born.  It was foolishness for me to run from His divine call on my life.  Remember, Paul says that he is Jesus’ slave.  I am a slave of Jesus, just like Paul, and I have no right to tell God I won’t do what He has called me to do!

In the same way each of you were given a task to accomplish when you placed your trust in Christ and became His slave.  Why do some of you resist His calling on your life?  You don’t have the right to tell God “no!”

In All the Nations

Paul then tells us something remarkable.  Grace is now available to all who exhibit obedient faith anywhere in the world.  This is an echo of John 3:16, in which God promises eternal life to all who believe.  Grace, God’s favor, is no longer limited to a dinky little backwater nation in the middle of the desert.  It has been brought to the whole world in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and all people must do is place their trust in Him.

For the Sake of His Name

Why has God allowed His grace to be dispensed?  So that the name of the one who dispenses His grace is glorified.  That is the meaning of the phrase “for the sake of his name.”  God has given His grace to all who place their trust in Christ for one reason only – to bring glory to His name in the person of Jesus.  He didn’t do it for me or for you.  He did it solely for Himself.

Realizing this, we should be stricken to our knees in awe that He condescended to allow one such as ourselves to be the vessels by which His name to be glorified!  He did not have to choose us to be vessels of glorification, yet He did!  Praise be to His glorious name in all the earth!

In Whom We Are

Next, Paul says that we are in the one whose name is being glorified.  We are in union, in relationship, to the one whom we have trusted.  If there is any doubt in the reader’s mind, Paul quickly reminds us that we are the called ones of Jesus Christ.  We are His slaves, and as such are joined to Him in a way that cannot be broken.

The Beloved, Called, and Holy Ones

Now Paul addresses his intended audience.  Having given such a great pedigree for himself and his brothers and sisters in Christ, he turns to a specific group of those brothers and sisters.  He calls them the beloved, called, holy ones of God.

Each of us who have trusted Christ is loved by God.  John 3:16 tells us that only those of us whom have trusted God experience His love in Christ.  If God loves the world through Christ, then the only way for us to experience that love is also through Christ.  Trust in Christ brings us the rich experience of the love of God that cannot be had through any other avenue.  Those in Rome had experienced the rich love of God in Christ.

Remember, each of us who have trusted Christ is called to perform a specific task for the Lord.  Those in Rome were no different.

But Paul also calls them holy.  The word I translate “holy ones” here is usually translated “saints” in our Bibles.  What a remarkable thing!  Each of us who have trusted Christ are holy ones, saints!  We are holy not of ourselves, but by virtue of the grace we have received through our faith in Christ.  What a contrast to the Catholic Church’s idea of a saint, so-called through manmade designations!  It is not the declaration of a church, a priest, or a Pope that makes us holy; it is the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Greetings of Grace

Paul greets those Roman Christians by wishing that they continue to receive from God grace and peace through their trust in Jesus.  What a wonderful way to say “hello!”  This kind of greeting is one that wishes only the best for the other person.  We as born-again believers must desire nothing but the best for our brothers and sisters in the faith.  Nothing could be better than God’s favor and peace!

Have you ever had God’s favor and peace?  I tell you today, the only way to have grace and peace in your life is to place your trust in Christ.  I have shown you that Jesus is the Son of God by whom God saves us.  I have shown you that anyone can be saved if they would simply trust in Jesus.  You know what I have told you.  Do you believe it to be true?  If you do, would you trust the truth I have shown you?  If you are a beloved one of God, you will trust Him.  All you must do to trust Him is repent of your sins and believe in Christ, and you will experience the love of God that saves sinners.  Don’t wait!  Trust in Christ today!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Introducing Deaf Ministry: Sobering Statistics

Last time, I promised to provide some statistics about Deaf ministry that would, quite frankly, shock you. I will not give a lot of introduction to these facts; instead, I will let them speak for themselves.
  1. There are an estimated 250 million Deaf individuals worldwide.
  2. The U.S. Census Bureau reports 35 million Americans have hearing trouble. Of this number, at least 1 million (or more, estimates vary) are what we would call Deaf in the sense in which I am a minister.
  3. In Louisville/Jefferson County alone, Census figures estimate 14,000 deaf individuals. Add the "hard of hearing," and this number jumps to over 69,000. Many of these, however, are older people who have lost their hearing. The actual number of Deaf individuals is more likely between 7,000 - 8,000, according to estimates given to me by the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  4. Many of these Deaf individuals cannot be found. A canvassing survey undertaken by my church, Louisville Baptist Deaf Church, in the 1990s was only able to uncover about 400 names.
  5. Of the worldwide and American numbers, according to the organization Deaf Missions, less than two percent (2%) of Deaf individuals claim to be Christians. This means that, percentage wise, there are less than 200 Deaf Christians in Louisville. The actual number, to my knowledge, is at or slightly greater than this percentage.
  6. The majority of these Christians either do not regularly attend church, "church hop" in order to be with friends as much as possible, or are not active in the churches of which they are members.
  7. Bob Rhoads of Campus Crusade for Christ reports that in 2005, 42 out of the 65 Deaf churches in the U.S. did not have a pastor.
  8. In Louisville, there is only one Deaf church, and it is blessed to have two pastors, myself and our Senior Pastor Tim Bender.
In contrast, there are hundreds of interpreting ministries in hearing churches all over America and the world. They are little more than gateways for many Deaf; that is, they are little more than seed-planters. It is the Christian Deaf community and those hearing who have dedicated themselves to Deaf ministry that typically are used by God to water and harvest. Why is this? Culturally, Deaf people have responded, generally, that hearing churches have tried to make Deaf ministry fit a hearing mold. I will give an example that truly rankles me these days to illustrate this point. Today in our circles there is a growing disdain for contemporary worship methods, particularly images, which extends to Powerpoint and videos. I'm sorry, but in Deaf ministry nothing could be more disastrous. Deaf people are a visual people. They typically learn visually. It is not enough to simply tell a Deaf person something; one must show it to them. The majority of Deaf individuals are not functionally developed enough to grasp abstract thought; these people need to be shown examples, things that can be seen, grasped and understood. Even those who (like myself) are functionally "advanced" require visual representations of concepts from time to time. For an example, I blogged about a theological conversation I had with my wife using condiments as illustration tools in this post. I am one of the very rare Deaf individuals who essentially function as a hearing person, and am blessed in that respect. It is also a curse in my ministry, because it is very easy for me to forget to be representational in my preaching. I do not use enough examples, enough pictures, enough dramatizations in my teaching. J. I. Packer, in Knowing God, writes that images distort our understanding of God by making the infinite into something finite, the perfect into the imperfect, substituting worship of the Creator for worship of the Created. In Deaf ministry, I have to wholeheartedly distance myself from Packer, as much as I agree with his theology on this issue. It is a practical impossibility to eschew visuals. But enough of the soapbox. In the next post, I will detail this general response that non-Deaf ministries are "too hearing."

Photo Friday and Deaf Trivia

Today's photo comes with a bit of Deaf trivia. Did you know that the huddle, a staple in modern football, is a Deaf invention? The concept of the huddle was first started at Gallaudet University in Washington, D. C. Gallaudet, the only "Deaf" college in America, fielded a football team in 1896. The quarterback, Paul Hubbard, needed a way to relay the plays to his teammates in sign language without the other team seeing what he was signing, and thus stealing the play. He gathered his teammates around him in a circle so that he could relay to his offensive teammates plays that came from the sideline without giving them away to the defense. This caught on, leading many to erroneously name later hearing football legends as the "inventor" of the huddle (such as Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bob Zuppke). In other interesting Deaf inventions, we also invented the umpire's signal for a strike in baseball. This led to the development of the umpire's signals in general. The next time you watch football or baseball, take a minute to thank God for his Deaf creations!